Donna Andersen, the author of Love Fraud the book and the website/support group Lovefraud.com, has recently published a new book, called Red Flags of Love Fraud: Ten Signs You’re Dating a Sociopath, which I’d highly recommend for anyone who suspects (or knows) they are with a pathological individual. Psychopaths are extremely dangerous because they lack a heart and conscience but they camouflage that fundamental lack so well. They construct a “mask of sanity” by lying to others and hiding their real motives and identities. With their extraordinary glibness and charm, they come on strong to their potential victims, love bombing them, flattering them, mirroring their interests and personalities–essentially, seducing them–then use them for their selfish and malicious purposes. Since they can’t bond emotionally with others and have no conscience, there’s no limit to the devastation they can cause in people’s lives. Experts estimate that between 1 and 4 percent of the population is psychopathic. Since psychopaths are very sociable and promiscuous, this means that millions of psychopaths in this country alone adversely affect hundreds of millions of lives.
As its title suggests, Red Flags of Love Fraud teaches victims and the general public how to recognize the red flags of the psychopathic bond—which are far from obvious in the beginning. This book draws upon Donna’s own personal experience (she was married for several years to a psychopathic conman and bigamist named James Montgomery); testimonials and research from lovefraud.com readers (conducted with her lovefraud partner, Dr. Liane Leedom), and–last but not least–a lot of her own analyses of psychopathic behavior and insights about the mindset of victims.
Most books about psychopathy focus primarily on explaining what this personality disorder is, the list of symptoms of the psychopath, and persuading readers why it’s very important to get away from such pathological individuals and establish no contact. This information is essential to what I’d call the first phase of escaping the psychopathic bond: realizing you’ve been conned, emotionally and/or financially, by a dangerous social predator and understanding his pathology. Donna’s book does this as well, with characteristic clarity and conciseness. She also includes anecdotes by victims telling their life experiences which make her book that much more interesting and offer concrete examples that readers can relate to.
But as a professional writer myself, I’d say that the most distinctive feature of Red Flags of Love Fraud is the quality of the writing, both in content and form. Donna’s writing is well-documented and informed, engaging and psychologically insightful. Insight is when a writer manages to probe deep within, to explain analytically what may be only a vague intuition in the minds of readers. Good writing encourages readers to explore their psyches, motivations and lives. Insight and introspection are especially important for victims of psychopaths.
It’s not enough to identify the traits of psychopaths and see how they behave and how they manage to manipulate and use us. Victims must also be able to look within in order to recognize some of the qualities and patterns of behavior that left them vulnerable to psychopathic seduction in the first place, so that it won’t happen again. This process isn’t about assuming responsibility for all the evil things the psychopaths did, which are unjustifiable and inexcusable. It’s about owning our power of discretion and choice in the future in seeing that, at least to some extent, we also had it in the past. There were red flags in the relationship early on that we chose to minimize or ignore. This book urges us to explore the reasons why we did that.
To offer an important example, one of the most common way psychopaths initially lure victims, Donna explains, is by a combination of 1) love bombing and flattery; 2) persistence, and 3) mirroring our identities and values, to reveal (a false) sense of compatibility. Love bombing is a process commonly used by cults, such as the Moonies, in the initial phases of attracting new members. It’s highly effective for cults–that are often run by psychopathic leaders–and it works just as well for individual psychopathic seducers.
Donna not only explains each strategy used by the psychopath, but also insightfully analyzes the reasons behind victim response. Love bombing is effective because unless you’re very famous, rich or some kind of celebrity, this kind of over-the-top attention is very rare. Few people are likely to tell you you’re the smartest, most attractive, most accomplished person in the world: first of all because you’re not; secondly because it’s rare to encounter another human being who appreciates you so completely. During the luring or idealization phase, therefore, psychopaths often set themselves apart from other people you’ve dated or befriended through a wooing and romancing that borders on worship.
They are also highly persistent, sometimes persevering for years until they catch and hook you emotionally. Only once you’re emotionally invested in them they gradually–or, in some cases, abruptly–drop the pretense of love and begin the devaluation and abuse. Persistence pays off, Donna elaborates, because people tend to associate it with love and commitment. If someone persists in proclaiming their love and pursuing us for month after month, or sometimes even year after year, we’re likely to believe that it’s because they truly care about us. Why else would anyone waste so much energy on a romantic pursuit? As far as psychopaths are concerned, the answer, unfortunately, is because they want power and control.
Psychopaths engage in a game-like hunt or pursuit of the individuals they momentarily desire, hyperfocusing on them like predators upon their prey. That’s also why they commonly engage in cyberstalking and stalking, both before and after a relationship is over. Sometimes, the more you evade their grasp, the more interesting the hunt becomes for them. But they never pursue victims because they love or care about them. Their persistence is about the pleasure of the hunt, to possess, consume and destroy their prey.
When you examine, as this book does, both the psychopath’s behavior and the predispositions and vulnerabilities that led you into this dangerous game, you are more likely not only to recognize the red flags of pathological relationships, but also the qualities that predisposed you to ignore them. Knowledge is a process of acquiring accurate information and processing it with insight. Red Flags of Love Fraud offers both information and insight. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to learn how to identify the danger signs in others as well as to confront the vulnerabilities within. You can purchase this book on Donna Andersen’s lovefraud website, on the link below.
Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness
Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction